Kiki Peterson has created, designed and relaunched several clothing brands over the span of her 19-year fashion career, notably Rocawear, Sean John and House of Dereon. With a keen eye for apparel, a knack for targeting the every day Vixen woman and always following her heart, Peterson is now set to launch K.Milele, her first women’s collection. Deriving from her full name Kianga Milele–meaning “sunbeam everlasting”–the sassy yet bold collection will be a contemporary take on the bossy type. Admit it, ladies: Whether it’s for a night out with friends or a board meeting with the suits, we want to feel great in what we wear as well as accentuate our young womanly essences.
Because Kiki has lent her know-how and creative balance to several avenues in this way, Grey Goose will honor her as a Rising Icon in Fashion. VIBE Vixen chats with the honoree about the new fashion venture, what celebs should wear her threads and what major moves she was making at 19. –Niki McGloster
What inspired the launch of K.Milele?
K.Milele is something that has been in my heart for years. As a teenager I was making prom dresses, and in college, I was making fabulous cocktail dresses. But I happened to catch a once in a lifetime wave in an unexpected new industry. The urban market was new, fun and fresh, and I was lucky enough to be one of the pioneers and launch the first juniors urban brand. From the success of Fubu Ladies, my career shifted to the juniors market, so before I knew it, 18 years passed. I haven’t had the opportunity to do the type of designing that drove me to this business originally; I’ve been longing to get back to designing contemporary dresses. It has always been my first love and I’m ready to reclaim it.
In three words describe the line?
Sexy, vivacious and feminine.
What is your vision for the first collection?
When I thought of what I should do with this collection, I looked down at the tattoo on my forearm that reads “Let me fly.” I knew that’s what I needed to do. I’ve spent so many years designing for everybody else, following their esthetic and pleasing their customers. With K.Milele, I just wanted to FLY! From concept to colors, fabrics and design, I wanted it to represent where I am now, as a 37-year-old woman. I wanted beautiful fabrics and feminine appeal.
What age group are you targeting?
It’s not about a specific age group. There is a certain level of sophistication that my collection carries, that may lead to a more mature customer. But I honestly feel like I have something for everyone who’s purse and style can handle it.
What have your learned from previous employers about fashion and design?
Every job I’ve had, I’ve discovered new ways of being more efficient. Each company operates in their own way, and I can take pieces from each of them and work it into making my own system as efficient as possible. Efficiency is key in a business plagued by deadlines. Being late in any stage of the design/sample/production processes can cost lots of money or even cancellations in orders if you ship late.
It seems that our generation has stepped away from the “urban” wear and look to more tailored or slimmer fits. How do you feel “urban” fashion can be revitalized?
Urban clothing was a huge phenomenon, and just like any phenomenon, the market gets flooded with everyone wanting a piece of the pie. Most of the market’s flooding isn’t from the original source of the movement. The urban market had evolving trends similar to any other category. For instance, even in couture fashion, there’s not one look. The trends, colors, aesthetic changes seasonally and varies amongst designers. The Urban market was that way at one point, but when the market got flooded, they clamped onto one specific look that read the most “urban”(baggie jeans, football jerseys, large logos) in an effort to capitalize on the market the most. Being on the inside, this frustrated us because we’re here to design what we liked to wear as young black men/women. Now if you know young black men/women, you also know that we love style and fashion. We are not trying to look like last year. But it was beyond our control. Urban took on a life of it’s own, and we couldn’t sell the new looks we tried to introduce. The buyers didn’t give us the credit of evolution. Yet high end designers constantly take urban trends and built it into their collections. It’s crazy. Today the word “urban” is a dirty word! Coming from someone who was there, who knows we were building dope, evolving collections that the buyers would ignore, I can’t help to feel a bit sad when I see what the word means to people today.
You’re 19 years into the game, what were you doing at that age?
By 19, I was already designing and calling shots for a major brand.
Wow. If you could see any celeb in K. Milele, who would it be?
Dita Von Teese!
Nice! She’s very retro glamour. If you could work closely or collaborate with one fashion designer, who would it be?
Betsy Johnson. I’ve always been a huge fan!
What’s your favorite piece from the collection?
That’s like picking a favorite child! But if I were tortured into choosing, I’d have to say I love my color-blocked pieces the most.
How does K.Milele fit the current or upcoming fashion trends?
I don’t worry too much about fitting into trends. I’m constantly gathering inspiration throughout my everyday life, through shopping, walking down the streets of new york, traveling, fashion magazines and trend sites. Current trends are stored somewhere in my brain and therefore play a part in my designing, but I try to steer away from anything too trendy. I’m a huge vintage fan. I’d like to think of my pieces as fashion classics.
Lastly, in your own words, what’s a Vixen?
A Vixen is a woman who’s comfortable in her sexuality without flaunting it. Her appeal is apparent, and her confidence will never go unnoticed no matter how hard she may try to play it off. But then again what Vixen chooses to shadow her confidence?